Monday 16 September 2019

What Lies Beneath: Niall MacMonagle - Lipsticks (series 19)

By Tom Phelan, oil on birch panel, courtesy of Molesworth Gallery

Tom Phelan's Lipstick's series 19
Tom Phelan's Lipstick's series 19

The Wild Atlantic Way is now all the rage but the 3,000 miles of Atlantic has been raging for millions of years, beating against Ireland in great, perfect waves. Surfing once meant Hawaii, California, Australia, but wetsuits changed all that and every surfer's wish list now includes Bundoran, Falcarragh, Magheroarty and Rossnowlagh.

Tom Phelan was born in Dublin but everyone knows that the Irish Sea just doesn't make waves, that the Irish Sea is rubbish on that front. In the north west, Phelan found expression for his two passions: surfing and art.

His oil on canvas seascapes are wild and free, their pulsing waves filled with energy. By contrast, these surfboard paintings are calm, ordered, pristine. They have yet to meet the adventure of the surf.

This recent work on Casani birch panels incorporates the grain of the wood into the image even though wooden surfboards are no more; since World War II, fibreglass rides the waves. Being bright and clean and shapely they were nicknamed Lipsticks.

Phelan's colours reflect the Pacific blues and greens and the more familiar salty-grey Irish Atlantic. In this particular one the curved tip is cropped and the grey background gives the seagreen, turquoise a vibrant glow, striated on the left, smooth on the right. The central design features a bold black curved line, a narrowing red one and a thin line to the left picks up on the grained wood on either side. Cool and beautiful it tells of Phelan's twenty years as master printmaker at Dublin Graphic Studio. Ironically, Tom Phelan now lives in land-locked Vienna, far from those magnificent waves. We've heard how the earth moves under your feet. Grab your lipstick boys. On your surfboard and feel the sea move beneath you.

Quiver, Tom Phelan's new 
show is running at the 
Molesworth Gallery, 
16 Molesworth Street, Dublin 2, until August 7.

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